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By Vukosi Maluleke

Digital Journalist

Kusile unit return ‘a temporary fix’, warns energy expert

Does this mean SA is one step closer to the end of load shedding?

An energy expert has warned Kusile units returning to service won’t be the silver bullet that solves SA’s power woes.

The power station’s Unit 1 returned to service this week, a year after it was taken offline.

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa made the long-awaited announcement on Monday, a month ahead of schedule, explaining the unit would add 800MW capacity to the grid.

Despite the good news, the question remains: does this mean SA is one step closer to the end of load shedding?

Speaking to The Citizen, energy expert Chris Yelland welcomed the news but said SA’s energy struggles were far from over. He described the development as “a quick fix”.

“We should all be happy that two generation units that suffered a breakdown about a year ago, are finally being restored to service, albeit on a temporary basis as an interim measure,” he said. 

ALSO READ: Eskom on track to end load shedding with another Kusile unit now online

More capacity needed

He said it was not a silver bullet to the country’s energy woes.

“It’s important to finish off this power station and it’ll help, but it’s not the solution to load shedding, nor is it a solution to SA’s electricity needs,” he said. 

Emphasising an urgent need for new power stations, Yelland said: “Not only do we need to meet demand, but we also need sufficient reserve generation capacity, on stand-by if ever a unit is taken out for maintenance.”

New units, old problems

Although Unit 1’s resumption of operations is a positive step, the expert was not impressed about the constant breakdowns of the units.

“It’s completely unacceptable because these are not old power stations, they are brand new and one would expect them to perform [optimally]. After 15 years of construction, we should not have half the power stations breaking down, with the rest still not completed,” he said. 

“This is supposed to be the most modern and best performing of our power stations,” he added.

ALSO READ: ‘Turning a corner’: Eskom to boost capacity with revived Kusile units

Pollution issues

Yelland said Kusile’s units also do not tick all the green boxes.

“Pollution control systems have been bypassed as a temporary measure. Under normal circumstances, operating these units would be illegal in terms of SA’s air pollution regulations.”

Minister of Forestry and Environmental Affairs Barbara Creecy granted Eskom a temporary Atmospheric Emission Licence exemption earlier this year, which enabled the power producer to operate the stations pending a long-term solution. 

ALSO READ: WATCH: Ramokgopa says Kusile is the answer to SA’s load shedding crisis

Power outages into the festive season?

Yelland said South Africans could expect less power cuts over the festive season due to low demand resulting from year-end closure of most industries, as well as the return of Kusile’s Unit 3 power plant in December. 

Cautioning against the impact of a hot summer, Yelland said the weather could slow down power generation.

“If the weather is very hot, it reduces the generation capacity output of air-cooled power stations like Themba, Medupi and Kusile,” he warned. 

He said unplanned, random breakdowns could still affect power supply. 

“We have experienced load shedding right in the middle of the festive season before, and it’s not impossible that it could happen again – but I do think it’s unlikely,” Yelland concluded. 

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ALSO READ: Higher load shedding until further notice

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